Bhubaneshwar, Mar 10 : Addressing media persons in Bhubaneshwar after culmination of four-day statewide tour on Monday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Rahul Gandhi said that mining in hills of Orissa would damage the environment.
He said, "I am against the proposal of mining bauxite in hills in eastern Orissa by Sterlite Industries, an Indian ancillary of Britain's Vedanta Resources. Although I am not against industralization, but we should not overlook the harmful effects of it."
Rahul said, "In a talk with tribals, I came to know how passionate they are about hills. My personal view is that mining in those hills will not only destroy environment, water but will also destroy the culture of thousands of people and I am against all this."
India's Supreme Court had barred Britain's Vedanta Resources from mining bauxite in Orissa in last November where tribal people and voluntary groups also opposed mining. But Sterlite Industries has an open window to come back with a fresh proposal on safeguarding the rights of local tribals and make fresh financial commitments to ensure the development of tribal people and submit an account of its expenses to the court, among other terms.
Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa to feed an alumina refinery it has already built in the area, as part of an 800 million dollars project expected initially to produce 1 million tonnes of alumina per year.
Tribal people feel that mining will destroy the hills, which they consider as sacred, and destroy their livelihood based on farming millet, hunting and collecting fruits and spices from the forests.
Environmentalists say open-cast mines would wreck havoc on the richiodiversity of the remote hills and disrupt key water sources which are used to feed two rivers that irrigate large areas of farmland.
Both the State and Central Governments back the mining plan, as part offforts to industrialize and exploit the mineral resources of underdeveloped eastern India.
Rahul Gandhi, who kicked off his nationwide tour termed as 'Discover India tour', from one of the poorest districts of Kalahandi in Orissa on Friday said that his tour was basically aimed at reaching people at the grassroots level.
The young Gandhi scion, who is AICC General Secretary incharge of Youthongress and the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), had recentlynnounced plans for undertaking a country-wide tour, during which, he said he would hunt for talented youth interested in politics and would focus on the problems of young people.
Addressing a press conference in Orissa, he told reporters he said: "Lok Sabha elections are expected to be held on time I don't think there will be an early poll. I think the prospects for Congress in Orissa are looking good."